Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning New Games

I know some bloggers have written that they blog more when they aren't playing; for me, it seems to be the exact opposite. I haven't been gaming much and neither have I been blogging all that much. What gaming writing I have been doing has been mostly working on a Gamer ADD project that isn't ready for the blogosphere yet.

I've decided to put that aside for the moment and try to return to actually gaming. Primarily, that means finally getting that Pendragon game going with my gaming group, but I may also try Google+ ConstantCon gaming. It would be really fun to be a player again.

When I referee, one of the attitudes I have is that I don't require system mastery of my players (this seems to work better with Old School games, so far as I can tell). This, plus the fact that I tend to heavily house-rule, means that I tend to write up booklets for my players that distill the information they need to know. (Unfortunately, enough of those booklets is copyrighted - and not just OGL either - that I don't think I can share them online.)

I've found myself doing the same thing with Pendragon, except that grasping the way the system works has replaced house-ruling as my second motive. Today I went through the character generation section with an index card and wrote out an outline of character generation while I was waiting for a friend to finish physical therapy. When I got home, I typed it into the computer and now I just need to copy the tables and lists over to have a finished character generation booklet for my players. I feel much more comfortable with character generation and the character sheet (well, at least the front of it) than I used to, even though I've read through it multiple times before.

When you begin to play with a new game system, what strategies do you use to learn it? Do you read it through multiple times? Give it one long, thorough read? Only look at what seems most important for now and figure you'll learn the rest when it's actually needed? Re-state it for yourself to make sure you grasp it, like I do? What other strategies do you have for learning a new game?


  1. I tend to generate some sample characters, maybe run a combat between them and a couple monsters, exercise all the fun random tables (encounter, treasure, and so forth), that kind of thing. I generally do one readthrough when I first get the system, and then another right before I go run it. I still tend to misremember a lot of things, but it's OK because I've started to treat the rules as more of suggestions lately, so if I'm not spot on it's not a terrible loss (and if my players correct me, then we use that instead. NBD).

  2. I flip through the book, then read it through fully, make a character or two, then run a game; I feel that you only really get to know a system by running it and playing it.

  3. Character gen is a great way of picking up the basics, especially after a good long read from cover to cover. The best way I've found though is by getting some close friends together and explaining that the game will just be a test. that way the players know to expect a certain of time flicking through the book, and I know my players will be deliberately pushing the limits of the game so i will know what kind of things I may need to house-rule tweek to get it to be the kind of game I want to run.

    Games like Unhallowed Metropolis used to have handy four page PDFs you could download for free that included character creation and combat basics. every one of my players had one of those and it made running very easy. Sadly, I'm bit too much of a lazy GM to make booklets of my own.

  4. I'm the sort of guy who reads rule books cover-to-cover, and I tend to be the rules guru in my group (if I'm not the referee). I also like to crunch numbers, and that helps me figure out the way the system works. But it's probably been years since I really tried learning a new game.